When it comes to providing citizens with access to information and communications technology, India lags other BRIC countries like China and Brazil and has been rated at “extreme risk” in a report issued by risk analysis firm Maplecroft.
The rating of “extreme risk” has been issued owing to a lack of “digital inclusion” when compared with the population and economy as a whole. The Digital Inclusion Index released by Maplecroft makes use of 10 measures in order to calculate the level and ranking of digital inclusion across 186 countries. These include numbers of mobile cellular and broadband subscriptions; fixed telephone lines; households with a PC and television; internet users and secure internet servers; internet bandwidth; secondary education enrolment; and adult literacy.
Of the BRICs nations, India (39) is the only country to be classified as ‘extreme risk’, meaning that the country’s population suffers from a severe lack of digital inclusion. China (103) Brazil (110) and Russia (134) are rated ‘medium risk’. Despite huge economic growth, the BRICs nations are still significantly outperformed by developed nations in the Digital Inclusion Index. The countries with the best access to ICTs are the Netherlands (186), Denmark (185), Luxembourg (184), Sweden (183) and the UK (182). Trends suggest that the BRICs nations may not lag behind for much longer however.
In India, for example, the wealthier, more affluent segment of the population, primarily based in urban areas, has embraced the use of modern communications technology. The growth of the middle classes in the country, which now sits at around 30% of the population, has driven demand for consumer goods, including ICTs. The vast majority of the population has, however, been excluded from this process. Most cannot afford ICTs (only 3% of households own PCs), lack the education required to use it effectively (India has secondary school enrolment rates of 55% and adult literacy rates of just under 63%) and are located in geographical areas that have little or no connectivity to ICT services. Although the division between those who can access ICT and those who cannot is less severe in the other BRICs nations, this trend is reflected throughout them all.
The risks of digital divide are plenty – from a business perspective, digital inclusion lack can hamper economic and social development. Last year Government of India announced National Broadband Plan with the initiative of increasing the broadband subscription base in India.
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